Iron deficiency anemia is a little confusing. Hemoglobin and hematocrit are the two most common tests for this kind of anemia but they really don't tell the full picture. Instead, a full iron panel can tell your physician more about what is going on in your body. Here's a look at what a full iron panel tests for:
Hemoglobin (Hgb) – is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to your body’s tissues and carbon dioxide from your tissues to your lungs. Low levels of hemoglobin indicate that the body has a reduced capacity to carry oxygen throughout the body.
Hematocrit (HCT; or PCV, packed cell volume) – this measures the percentage of red blood cells in the blood. So for instance, if your HCT is 40%, this means that 40% of your blood volume is composed of red blood cells.
Red Blood Cell Count (RBC) – bed blood cells are your oxygen carrying cells. A low RBC signals anemia.
Transferrin – a transport protein that carries iron. If a person is iron deficient, transferrin levels will be high.
Serum Iron – measures the quantity of iron in the blood that is bound to transferring. Serum iron levels are low if you are deficient in iron.
TIBC (Total Iron Binding Capacity) – measures your body’s ability to transport iron. If a person is iron deficient, their TIBC will be high.
Ferritin – measures your iron stores in the body. When your blood levels of iron drop, your body can pull iron from your ferritin. Lower levels of ferritin signal iron deficiency.